Two households, both alike in dignity, In the Galaxy, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
I couldn’t help it. With the whole ending sequence the way it turned out to be I had to explore this idea that Rise of the Skywalker might be, in fact, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Star Wars is space fantasy at it’s most dramatic, so it totally fits here on my blog.
I’ll say this early on, this time I will be sharing spoilers so read at your own risk.
The obvious parallels
There are two forces in Star Wars, the way of the Jedi and the Dark side. As a generality, the Dark side has teamed up with the first order and has been a controlling force behind all their goals of expansion and dominion. The Jedi have always sided with the Rebellion, trying to keep a balance in the Galaxy and to shield innocent planets against unfair rule and taxation.
Montagues and Capulets = Palpatines and Skywalkers
In Rise of Skywalker, these two forces are embodied in two characters, who are the last surviving members of two powerful households and also the last reservoirs of power for both the Dark side and the Jedi. In the course of this movie, Rey learns that she is in fact a Palpatine. Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa – who as we remember was Luke Skywalker’s sister, making Kylo a Skywalker.
Let’s not forget a vital piece of information. Emperor Palpatine (despite being apparently vaporized during Return of the Jedi) wasn’t, in fact, dead. He’s still powerful and is still calling the shots behind the scenes in the First Order. He is the Montague. As the head of the more powerful house, he is irritated that the lesser house of Skywalker is alive and causing problems.
Kylo and Rey are compelled to be together
If there is to be a true comparison to Romeo and Juliet, there has to be some form of doomed relationship. Enter Kylo and Rey. If you classify obsession as a form of romance, then yes, Kylo is obsessed with Rey. He’s so obsessed, that he can form a force-fueled connection to her where they can interact with each other. Rey feels the connection to him as well but she fears what it means. This doesn’t stop her from ultimately going off on her own to face him.
Can we talk about the death scene?
The thing that makes Romeo and Juliet memorable and tragic is in the climax where a misunderstanding leads to the death of both of them. In the end of Rise of Skywalker, we see something achingly similar. Emperor Palpatine, now a stick puppet of his former self, wants to convert Kylo and Rey to the dark side and continue on his legacy. Throughout his life, he’s tried multiple times to get whoever has the strongest power in the force to strike him down and complete their journey to the dark side. Here it’s no different.
Rey faces him and refuses to strike him down. Knowing that she will never bend, regardless of what he does, he changes tactics like he did with Luke in Return of the Jedi and instead tries to kill her. This results in him gaining some of her power and making it possible for him to regain his former glory without dying. Kylo rushes in, fights briefly and bravely, and is swiftly dispatched off the side of a cliff and is presumed dead.
Here’s where our Romeo and Juliet bit comes in. Rey, believing Kylo is dead, knows she must destroy the Emperor and enters into an epic dual with him. With both Skywalker lightsabers, she deflects his lightning and manages to kill both him and herself in the process.
But alas! Kylo survives the fall and returns to the scene too late. Rey is gone. In the same vein as Romeo and Juliet, he tries to reverse the effects of Palpatine’s lightning damage by infusing her with his own force. This is the equivalent of taking the same poison. He is successful in bringing her back and they share a lovely brief moment, before he dies – finally finding redemption.
The rest of the story
While the elements listed above mirror Romeo and Juliet well, the rest of the story most certainly does not. The Rise of Skywalker had a big job to do. There were so many storylines that needed to find a sense of completion that this movie was destined to be complicated. Here’s a list:
- Defeat Emperor Palpatine, the power behind the first order
- Resolve the conflict between Kylo and Rey
- Restore balance to the force
- Give Luke a chance to redeem himself for becoming a bitter hermit in Last Jedi
- Show all our favorite characters getting what they deserve.
- Give Kylo a chance to be forgiven for the pain he caused his parents
- Restore Rey’s lineage and missing past
- Have one last epic space battle to end them all
- Let us say one last goodbye to Leia
Did I miss any? Yea, probably. Like I said, it’s complicated and lots of these resolution points involve dead people. But, they did a brilliant job in weaving all this together without needing a single senate or lengthy (boring) council scene. Kudos to JJ Abrams and his team for making a brilliant end to a powerful story.